During the summer of 2013, a six year old boy named Nathan Woessner was basically swallowed up by the Mount Baldy sand dune located near the southern shore of Lake Michigan. The void in the sand was 11 feet deep and a foot wide, and scientists spent a long time figuring out the cause of the hole.
Luckily, Nathan was found and safely recovered. Rescuers had to act quickly by digging a massive hole in order to retrieve him from the sandy cavern. They have said that they are lucky that they got to him as quickly as they did. But while Nathan was okay, it started an inquiry into the mysterious hole.
Some people believe that the hole was caused by lightning. Others suspected that hole-diggers were responsible. Still, more theorists said that the roofs of buried abandoned houses were caving in. It turns out that the holes were caused by fungus from rotting trees. When the boy disappeared, researchers noticed some key features about the hole.
Researcher Ariel Sabar said, “Its inside wall was sandy and soft, but bore the imprint of bark, almost like a fossil. It was as if the boy had wound up at the bottom of a hollowed-out tree trunk, except not a bit of tree was there."
Scientists used a large variety of equipment to further examine the hole. They discovered that decaying trees had caused the void in the sand.
Coastal geologist and lead researcher Erin Argyilan said, “At that point, I was sold that we had trees being buried and decomposition driven by fungus, but I did not know why the holes would stay open."
Scientists proceeded to collect the sand from the tunnel. They then examined the sand by using powerful microscopes. This examination revealed that fungus was consuming the woody mass of the extended roots of the trees. This caused a collapse of the sand, which was previously held in place by the roots.
For now, that’s one mystery solved.